Torchwood

I love TV. And my favorite time of the year is approaching.. Around now all the new network shows start rolling out and I Tivo a ton of them and check them out. So far I’ve seen 4 new shows (and have a few more queued up to watch) : “Kitchen Nightmares” (covered a couple of posts ago), “Back to You” on Fox (which is about ‘eh’ on my rating scale), “Big Bang Theory” on NBC (which may actually be good) and “Torchwood” on BBCA.

First off, quickly lets talk about “Big Bang Theory”. This show is sit-com about a couple of supposed physics geniuses . This show is interesting to me because I’m not sure what their intended audience is . If that audience  is  intended to be as many americans as possible,  they better not get too technical (technical jokes, etc.) they will alienate most of them. On the flip side, if they are trying to get the geek audience, they better make sure that all of their tech jokes are not only plausible and technically correct, but funny for geeks at the same time. It’s not clear from the Pilot. I found some funny geek humor (String Theory references mostly) but some of it was incorrect. My guess is that they are going to sway towards the former audience and in that case, I think I’m going to hate it but we’ll just have to see.

Now on to something important: “Torchwood“. First off, know that I love “Dr. Who” the new seasons that have come out of BBC over the past 3 years have been pretty much flawless. I found them fun, funny, intelligent, subversive, interesting, and at times tear-jerky. I really love this show. “Torchwood” is a spin off of the new “Dr. Who”. Torchwood in the “Dr. Who” storyline is a British agency that is a version of “Men in Black” or “X-files”. In addition, the lead character of the show (Captain Jack Harkness) is a character I loved from the second season of “Dr. Who”.

So far I’ve seen 2 episodes and I actually didn’t have high expectations for some reason. But I’ve been pretty surprised. It’s been a slow start but I like where its all headed. I think that this could have the potential to be great. So far I love Captain Jack since I see a lot of depth in him that I want to know more about. I also like the female lead (Gwen Cooper) who I think is really hot in some odd way. The other characters I’m not sure about, but something tells me that they will grow on me a bit. Anyway, give this a try if you are into sci-fi stuff. I did and I’m glad.

America really sucks lately

And I’ll tell you why with 2 quick items.

The first is the fact that a girl was almost blown to bits by overzealous asshole cops a couple of days ago. Of course I’m talking about Star Simpson at Logan airport. I just came across a blog post on salon that pretty much sums up how I feel so I’ll just let you read that first. What’s sad is that we Americans instead of being upset at how the cops overreacted and almost killed someone for having an unidentified electronic device at an airport (my lord what will we do?) we do one of two things. We shrug it off as just another odd story in this crazy county of ours or we say something along the lines of “well, she should have known better”. Really? Should Cartoon Network have known better when they put up the mooninites? Why should we as American citizens have to spend brain cycles all the time checking all of our public actions to make sure that we don’t look or seem like “evil terrorists bent on destruction”?? I mean really. Let me tell you something. If someone wanted to blow up an airport or someone wanted to attack and kill a bunch of Americans they would do it and we wouldn’t be able to stop them because anyone should know that a determined attacker will not walk into an airport with a bomb strapped to the outside of their sweatshirt. I for one believe that they would probably hide it in some way. Ugh.. I’m done but I could go on.. I don’t think I need to though.. those of you who read here all pretty much agree with me anyway.. who am I convincing?

The second item is not directly related but it still shows us how sad we’ve become. For 3 years now I have been enjoying “Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares” on BBC America. This show was a simple, genuine and interesting look at how to turn around a failing restaurant. Gordon Ramsay, a very successful and opinionated chef would visit a failing restaurant, figure out what was wrong with it and then work with the owners to make it better again. He would come back a month or so later to check up on it. The show was great because a) the people were genuinely trying to run their establishment, b) Ramsay knew what he was doing, c) he really wanted to help fix the place up and d) occasionally he would encounter friction with the owners or their chef, etc.

I was looking forward to the American version of the show (it debuted on fox last week). Boy was I surprised. The concept was similar, the chef the same, but wow did the show suck! In typical Fox/American TV fashion, the owners of the restaurant were so over the top I was convinced the whole thing was staged and they were actors. Instead of actually implementing ideas and getting deep into the restaurant business, Ramsay (or Fox, its unclear) bought them a new kitchen and generally acted as a host and simply walked around acting surprised and the zainy owners behavior. In addition, the restaurant was completely overlit to the point of looking like a set. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that all the people had to wear makeup. In short, the show now had no soul or depth and was simply sensationalized crap that I still think was fake. But the funny thing is that I agree with what Fox did with it. The BBC version would last one episode here. American viewers would hate it because it would be too complex to understand and probably would seem quite boring. And that is what is so sad. We Americans need to be fed simple, shocking, bright doses of entertainment. We will accept nothing less. Why is this? What is the matter with us? Are we really that shallow?

On Second Life

First off, let me say this. I’ve been in Second Life on three separate occasions. The first was way back in the beginning of the universe. I was a huge MMO player at the time and I was trying them all as soon as they came out. SL was no exception. I downloaded the software, fired it up and spent about 20 minutes there before I quit and uninstalled it. It was quite primitive graphically and the UI was no better. The second time was a few years later after I’d read in Wired about this guy who had bought a huge piece of land in the game and was renting out shops, etc. I thought perhaps I should pop in, buy some land and then wait it out as an investment. So I downloaded, installed and went through the new tutorial. I lasted about an hour this time. The last time was a few months ago. I just had to see if the world had improved.

I was more impressed this time, but something just didn’t feel right with the UI and somehow the world was too complex and open. Since you could teleport or fly anywhere, real estate location was irrelevant. Furthermore, the supply of land was limitless since new servers could be added at any time. But the world (I keep wanting to call it a game, but its clearly not) is popular isn’t it?

Why is this crappy MMO so popular? Why have real companies invested there? Why do they have so many people like me logging on to try it (granted, many like me don’t last long there)? It’s simple. We all want the Metaverse to be real. For those of you who don’t get the reference, run out and buy and then read “Snow Crash” by Neil Stephenson. It is clearly what SL wants to be and clearly something that if it existed would be really cool. I mean, how amazing would it be to really be able to have a virtual second life? We all want to push our reset buttons and start again don’t we? Or at least we want to try our a dream we may have had instead of the drudgery of our current lives/jobs. We all crave what SL is trying to bring us.

The bummer is that SL does a piss poor job of it. I’m not going to go into details, but SL to me doesn’t realize that dream. But, and here is the important part, the fact that there is so much interest tells us something. It tells us that people want the Metaverse to be real, that we want a virtual second life. You could also interpolate all the fantasy on the internet to indicate the same craving. We just need some company (hmn Blizzard are you listening?) with the talent to build a great world and then unleash it. Watch it fly!

Toynbee Tiles

tileFor those of you who keep up, you should already know that I’m fascinated by street art. Not grafitti, though some of it could be cool, but real artistic statements like the original Keith Harings, the chalk drawings I used to find every once and a while in NYC, the sticker art here in Philly, Banksy, etc. My favourite thing that I’ve noticed for a few years now but never took the time to think about and research has been these cool things I’d see in the street from time to time. I know them now to be called “Toynbee Tiles” but I used to think they were simply carved metal plates that got embedded into the street.

It seems that these tiles are not found only here in Philly. And it seems that there is a definite following of the mystery of them. But the best, most interesting visual documentation of their creation I found here (and in other posts) in the dovate blog.